Review by Ron Banks
Forget about Verdi’s Requiem being a solemn affair mourning the loss of Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni.
Verdi’s masterpiece for large chorus, orchestra and soloists is a dramatic and passionate exercise in music-making, at times low-key and subtle, at other times bold, vigorous and stirring – as much an affirmation of life as a hymn to those at eternal rest.
The Darwin Symphony Orchestra and the 100-voice Darwin Chorale, playing this epic score for the first time, delivered an engrossing interpretation that maintained its requisite intensity for the full 95-minute duration at the Darwin Entertainment Centre on Saturday night (November 4).
Guest conductor Nicholas Routley wisely decided to dispense with the interval that had been originally been programmed, and his brisk yet economical conducting ensured the players never became lost in its shifting moods and colours.
The Darwin Chorale was similarly on its mettle, offering finely-shaded choral contributions that ranged from sweet and low murmurings to passionate outbursts full of fire and brimstone. The latter was stirring stuff, accentuated by the bursts of red lighting on the stage backdrop.
Under the direction of Nora Lewis, the Chorale proved disciplined and confident after weeks of rehearsal. This discipline was extremely effective in the softer moments, but the choir could have done with a little more oomph and ecstasy in the big scenes. They seemed just a little too polite and restrained at times, as if afraid of losing control by submitting too passionately to the fury of the music.
The Requiem contains some wonderful roles for four soloists – in this case soprano Teresa La Rocca, mezzo soprano Kathryn Dineen, tenor Rosario La Spina and bass Stephen Bennett.
Each role puts them centre-stage by turns, or singing in trio combination – adding another layer to Verdi’s multi-coloured meditation on hope, mercy and redemption.
Dineen’s mezzo soprano was a beautifully poised contribution, overshadowing the soprano in the early movements until in the finale La Rocca’s supple voice brought the work to its satisfying conclusion.
The male voices of tenor La Spina and bass Bennett gave their own darker shadings to the work, both delivering confident, muscular and at times exciting interpretations.
Verdi’s Requiem is the kind of work that demands the professional forces that can do its epic nature justice. The Darwin Chorale and the DSO were equal to the task, reflecting the continuing maturation of the Darwin musical scene.